The only evidence of the early ice cutter remaining may be his tools, which were sometimes made in the farm's forge barn. Even the later manufactured tools are beginning to disappear now. The common ice tongs, ice saw and other paraphernalia of the ice cutter may already be seen in antique shops. Natural ice for anything except skating will soon be past Americana. One might think that the ice and snow of yesteryear would have inconvenienced the farmer, yet winter was a season to which he looked forward to. Every hauling job waited for the first snow or ice because only then were the soft and uneven roads really usable.
Instead of plowing the snow away as we do today, snow rollers packed it down and everyone traveled on top. One of the town's most important jobs was that of snow warden. He was the man who supervised "road packing" and, oddly enough, was responsible for covering the bare shots with snow. The whole northern country moved by sled in winter, and a bare spot on a snow-covered road became a frustrating roadblock. The snow warden's most tiring job was to "snow-pave" the bridges so sleds could pass through. This, of course, explodes the theory that bridges were covered to keep them free of snow.
For every wagon a farmer owned, he once had about three sleds. Wheels were more for pleasure or light-carriage transportation. All Heavy hauling was postponed until winter, and then moved over ice and snow. A few farmers improvised detachable runners to put beneath wagon wheels, and thus could use that wagon in both summer and winter.
Excerpted by Maury Tosi
From Eric Sloane's booklet American Yesterday (1956)